For the first part of the offseason the Pinstriped Bible staff will be grading 35 of the Yankees' main contributors to the 2013 roster. Their entire season will be taken into account, even if part of it came at the minor league level. We continue this series with Brett Gardner.
2013 Statistics: .273/.344/.416, 8 HR, 52 RBI, 81 runs, 24 stolen bases, .335 wOBA in 609 plate appearances
2014 Contract Status: Arbitration Eligible
There's no denying that Brett Gardner was one of the highlights of the Yankee lineup this year (although, frankly, that's not saying very much). After Robinson Cano, Gardner was, for much of the year, the second best hitter in the lineup. While his numbers weren't outstanding, they were quite solid, helping the Yankees stay within striking distance of the playoffs during a year when the rest of the lineup struggled with injuries, consistency, and overall decency.
2013 was certainly a good season for Brett Gardner at the plate. His .273 average was five points higher than his career batting average, and his slugging was the highest it's ever been. He hit for a bit more power than usual, posting career highs in homers and RBI (although not by much). However, he didn't display as much of the speed that made him so dangerous on the base path just a few short years ago. In 2013, he only stole 24 bases. Other than 2012, a season almost entirely lost to injuries, this was his lowest total in his years as a regular starter for the Yankees. He walked less than normal this season, 8.5% this year to his 10.3% career average, and had one of the highest strikeout rate he's ever had in the majors at 20.9%.
Defensively, Brett Gardner was somewhat disappointing this year. While he posted UZRs above 25 in 2010 and 2011, he was only an average defender this year, with a UZR of -0.5. Sure, some of this is due to the shift from left to center, but such a significant drop has to at least worry Yankee brass heading into 2014.
While he may have been one of the top players in a lineup decimated by injury, the fact remains that Gardner had a good year--but not a great one. His fWAR of 3.2 was his third best ever; solid, but nothing like his 2010 career high of 6.0, or his 4.9 in 2011. While he improved in some ways, he declined in others, and since the Yankees have depended on him to get on base, steal bases, and play defense for the past few years, his regression in these areas should not be taken lightly. On the wrong side of the 30, this regression may continue next season, and while Gardner should still be a threat at the plate and steal some bases, he may no longer be the terror on the base paths or the top defender that he once was.
The fact remains, though, that Brett Gardner had another good year. He produced at the plate and hit with a bit more power than normal, and while we've come to expect 40+ steals a year from him, 24 isn't bad. And in such a strange year, it's tough to find a lot of bright spots in the season the Yankees just had.
Gardner was certainly one of them.
What grade would you give Brett Gardner?